Saturday, February 6, 2016

Net Neutrality or Antitrust

As ArsTechnica reports:

Verizon Wireless is testing the limits of the Federal Communications Commission's net neutrality rules after announcing that it will exempt its own video service from mobile data caps—while counting data from competitors such as YouTube and Netflix against customers' caps. The only way for companies to deliver data to Verizon customers without counting against their data caps is to pay the carrier, something no major rival video service has chosen to do. While data cap exemptions are not specifically outlawed by the FCC's net neutrality rules, the FCC is examining these arrangements to determine whether they should be stopped under the commission's so-called "general conduct standard." The FCC is already looking into data cap exemptions—also known as zero-rating—implemented by Comcast, AT&T, and T-Mobile USA.

This is less of a Net Neutrality issue  than possibly an Antitrust issue. The wireless channel is a distribution channel. It was "bought" at an auction but still is using a public airwaves. More importantly they are bundling or tying a purchase at the disadvantage of a competitor.

One wonders where the DoJ Antitrust Division is on this one. Some 20 years ago I addressed this specific point. But somehow the Government has spent 20 years in some alternate universe. My specific concern then was Verizon and access and it is essentially the same argument.

In addition some decade ago I also discussed Internet Neutrality in similar terms. The combination of the 1996 paper and the 2006 paper are ever so more relevant today.